FoodFact: Can Pet Dogs or Cats Eat Rice?
No matter what corner of India your plate is set in, it’s likely that rice will be at least one of the dishes served. Rice is a staple food of about 65% of the people living in our country. Yes, that’s a whole lot of rice! In India, Rice is not only treated with wide acclaim but also tied to a few elaborate and holy rituals. From Biryani, whose praises we’ve all sung at some point in our lives; to being used in the ritual ‘lota’ in a traditional Hindu wedding. Rice is not just a staple but an intimate part of Indian lives. So if you’ve been wondering if you can share rice with your furry pal, you’re at the right place!
Even though dogs are carnivores, they have evolved with years of human domestication. They now are able to digest plant matter supplementing a meat-based diet. So, does this mean they can eat rice? Well, yes, but with conditions!
Rice has long been considered one of the premium ingredients in pet foods, both homemade and commercial. However, what truly matters is the quality and the quantity of rice. Even though rice is not something that is a natural fit for canines, there are times you can feed it to your dog. In addition to dogs, you can also feed rice to your precious little feline furball. In fact, in some cases, adding a little rice to your feline’s processed diet might aid his/her digestion process.
So, where does Rice come from?
And why do Indians love their Rice so much?
Rice is, by far, the most widely consumed crop in the World. With evidence dating it back to as early as 2500 B.C, rice was an important food item in the Mohenjo-daro era. Farming of rice dates back to at least 8000 years. Its cultivation seems to have spread throughout Asia for a good 2,000 years.
The immense importance of rice to the people of Asia is evident through their use of the word in their respective languages. For example, instead of using terms such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Japanese use the word ‘rice’ to mean ‘meal’ in traditional speech. Thus, breakfast becomes ‘morning rice’ (asa gohan); lunch becomes ‘afternoon rice’ (hiru gohan); and dinner becomes ‘evening rice’ (ban gohan). In countries such as Bangladesh, China, and Thailand, instead of greeting people with: ‘How are you?’, they ask: ‘Have you eaten your rice today?’
The use of a crop name in such intimate discourse is not found in the context of any other food item. Beginning in the surrounding areas of China, cultivation of rice spread throughout Sri Lanka, and India. Making its way to Greece and areas of the Mediterranean, rice spread throughout Southern Europe and parts of Northern Africa. From Portugal & Spain, it was later brought on to Brazil & Central and South America. Due to its versatility, i.e. its ability to grow in not only harsh conditions such as the desert regions of Africa, but also in the marshy land areas of Southeast Asia, rice was being propagated throughout the world. And today it is grown in almost every continent except Antarctica.
About 50% of the population of India heavily depends on Rice for sustenance. An array of good rice recipes is imperative when putting together any Indian menu. Rice finds its way onto the table somehow; as a delectable side dish, as a companion to a sumptuous curry, or as the main course itself.
What nutritional value does Rice have?
Rice is almost 80-90% carbohydrate, and the rest protein, fiber and fat. It is also a source of minerals and nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, iron, folic acid, thiamine, and niacin. White rice is highly refined, polished, and stripped of its bran. On the other hand, brown rice is an intact whole grain, which contains the bran. Consequently, brown rice contains more fiber than white rice. Bran being the most vital part of the grain, contains several vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and is rich in fiber. Brown rice also has lesser carbohydrate content than its white counterpart, making it a clear winner when it comes to nutritional quality and health benefits.
And what value does Rice add to my Pet’s diet?
Zero! That’s the number of carbohydrates, nutritionally required by your pet to stay healthy.
But carbohydrates aren’t all bad for dogs, as they do provide the energy that helps keep your dog active. Carbohydrates come mainly from grains and provide energy in the form of sugars. Carbohydrates have several important functions in a dog’s food. Dogs are capable of converting certain carbohydrate sources into simple sugars that are easily absorbed. The complex ones take a longer time to get absorbed.
However, if your dog eats too much and doesn’t exercise at all, the stored carbohydrates get converted into fatty deposits in the body and may cause obesity.
When feeding Rice to your furry friend, consider the following:
- First and foremost, only serve your pet with properly cooked rice. Feeding uncooked or raw rice can disturb the gastrointestinal balance of your pet.
- In addition to being an amendment to the usual feed, rice can also be used as an occasional substitute. Even though rice is considered as a filler, we cannot neglect the fact that it is an easily digestible carbohydrate and provides beneficial minerals and B vitamins. In regulated amount, mixing rice can do wonders for your pet dog.
- Using butter, ghee, oil, salt or spices can cause stomach upset and add calories, so avoid these add-ons at all cost. Cooked rice can be served as a mixture with either boiled chicken or any other commercial pet food.
- Variants of rice dishes such as Chicken Biryani, Chicken Oriental Rice, Chicken Schezwan Rice are meant only for human consumption. They include spices and oils that are suited only for us and not for our pets. So, these dishes should be kept away from your pets at all times.
- One frequently asked question among the Indian pet owner community is, whether feeding Idly and Dosa to your pet is safe. Idly and Dosa are both items prepared for human consumption. Dosas include additives such as fenugreek powder, salt, oil, spices, etc. that are suited for our taste buds but not ideal for our pets. Feeding Idly is acceptable, though not recommended.
Rice for Cats:
The first step is to ensure that the rice is cooked. Uncooked rice is detrimental for feline digestion. It not only is difficult to digest but also can induce vomiting when consumed in large quantities. You can experiment by mixing a little quantity of rice with chicken or other cat-friendly proteins. Ideally, the ratio of rice should be 1:3 i.e. 25% of the served bowl.
Brown Rice for Dogs or White Rice for Dogs?
- Nutrients – With protein levels higher and starch levels lower than white rice, brown rice provides much more nutrition than white rice. Consuming brown rice provides your pet with minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. Potassium and sodium present in brown rice help your pet maintain fluid balance and smooth heart functions. Brown rice also provides thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, niacin and folate in small amounts.
- Constipation – The presence of fiber in brown rice makes it an optimum choice as it can go a long way in helping your pet overcome constipation. You should keep the amount of grain foods like rice to less than 30% of your dog’s diet.
- Helps Combat Diarrhoea – Rice can help soothe your dog’s gut and can help ease his GI distress or diarrhea. But under no circumstance should rice substitute the usual balanced meal. You may also want to consult your vet before you feed your pet rice to battle diarrhea, just to be on the safer side.
- Weight Gain – If your dog needs to increase his body weight, you can add cooked/steamed brown rice to add calories to your dog’s diet and help him gain some weight.
Note: Your dog may feel full and energized from eating rice but he won’t get enough proteins. Ensure the meal you provide him is comprehensive and does not contain only rice. Your dog or cat needs a meat-based diet, complete with vegetables, seeds and herbs to balance the nutrients.
Are there any side effects or feeding Rice to my pet?
Rice allergies aren’t common in dogs, but if your dog has an allergic reaction, it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian immediately. The allergic symptoms usually include itchy skin, hair loss, hot spots, and ear infections. In case any of these symptoms are observed after feeding rice, refrain from giving him any more rice without checking with the veterinarian.
The Final Verdict
Even though there’s a debate about the role of rice in your pet’s meal, it’s safe to serve cooked rice as a digestion regulator for upset stomachs or even as a side dish to a meat-based diet (amount should be supervised).
In conclusion, it is safe to say that dogs can eat rice, and occasionally adding a bit of rice to your dog’s dish would be a healthy treat for your pet. But it definitely is not a wholesome replacement for his meals. To have a healthy and happy life your dawgie requires a balanced diet that provides him with all the nutrition his body needs in the right quantities.
Check out our meal plans made to suffice all your pooch’s needs just right!
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